Spiritual Vertigo

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Being Just a Few Degrees Off Course

The headlines in a recent newspaper article seemed to jump off the page: "Lost in Fog, 757 Plunges into Pacific." With 70 people on board, Aeroperu Flight 603 from Lima, Peru, to Santiago, Chile, had fallen from the dark and foggy sky into the icy Pacific waters off the coast of Peru. What happened? Moments before the crash, the pilot of the aircraft was asking the same question: "What's happening? What altitude am I at? Why is my ground crash alarm on? Am I over land or sea? . . . I don't have any instruments."

(See Salt Lake Tribune, 3 October 1996, A1, A9.)

With a failed navigational system and thick fog preventing him from seeing any lights on the ground, I believe the pilot may have been experiencing vertigo. If an airplane turns at a constant two or three degrees, the motion is imperceptible. If a person inside cannot see lights from the instrument panel or from the sky or ground, before long he could be flying completely upside down and not even be aware of it. When a pilot realizes he is losing altitude, his automatic reaction is to pull the stick back. If he is not flying straight and level, however, his airplane can dive toward the earth rather than climb toward the safety of the sky.

If we are not careful, we can experience spiritual vertigo. If we stray off the course of obedience only two or three degrees--an almost imperceptible difference--we can become disoriented. Losing sight of our eternal destination and not even realizing how far off course we are, we will make poor choices.

Our Savior does not want us to crash. His desire is for us to choose the route that will bring us back on the straight and narrow path to live with him eternally. "Come, follow me," he has told us. He provides the light that will keep us on course and bring us back into his presence.

(excerpt from a fireside speech by Robert D. Hales, Nov. 3, 1996 at BYU)